EGMR: Church of Scientology of St Petersburg and Others v. Russia (no. 47191/06)

The applicants in this case are the Church of Scientology of St Petersburg, an unincorporated group of Russian citizens formed for the collective study of Scientology, and six members of this group: Galina Shurinova, Nadezhda Shchemeleva, Anastasiya Terentyeva, Ivan Matsitskiy, Yuliya Bryntseva, and Galina Frolova, Russian nationals, born in 1954, 1955, 1979, 1975, 1977, and 1955 respectively. The case concerned their complaint about the authorities refusing to register their Scientology group as a legal-entity.

Between March 1995 and August 2003 the applicants’ Scientology group, led by Ms Shurinova since the late 1980s, submitted six applications for registration. The registration authorities rejected all their applications, each time citing new grounds for their refusal. The most recent refusal referred in particular to the alleged unreliability of a document confirming that the group had been in existence for 15 years, a legal requirement under Russian law for any new religious group to be registered. In October 2003 the applicants challenged the refusals in court and, in December 2005, the St Petersburg District Court held that the refusal to register their group as a legal entity had been lawful, citing defects in the document confirming the existence of the religious group for 15 years. This judgment was upheld on appeal in May 2006.

Relying in particular on Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience, and religion) interpreted in the light of Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) of the Convention, the Scientology group complained that the decisions refusing to register them as a legal entity had been arbitrary.

  • Violation of Article 9 interpreted in the light of Article 11
  • Just satisfaction: € 7,500 to the applicants jointly in respect of non-pecuniary damage

Press release ECHR 279 (2014) 02/10/2014

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